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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Big JohnBig John

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1,298 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1298
Reviews: 429
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: 11.3%

Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
Brewmasters Notes:
Inspired by the epic skyline of Chicago, Goose Island's brewers set out to craft Big John; a tall, bold slugger of a stout that stands out vividly against the little soft beers out there. Epic amounts of roasted malt and an addition of cacoa nibs give Big John a massive chocolate flavor and aroma. With a body as substantial and black as the building to which it pays homage, Big John is sure to inspire a sense of awe with each sip.

(Beer added by: aasher on 03-13-2011)
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Ratings: 1,298 | Reviews: 429 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of ThickNStout


3.89/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle from Beer Temple (Chicago, IL). 11.99. Bottled 12/07/12. Served in a goblet.

Pours coal black with a finger and a half of deep tan head. The foam settles to a thin veneer and tiny halo that seem to refuse to leave any lace.

Sweet smells of bakers cocoa, dark fruit, balsamic reduction and some caramel. Slightly muted but still good overall.

Taste follows the nose well with it's sweet array of fudge, bittersweet dark fruit skins, burnt caramel, molasses, espresso, raisins, roasty dark malt, vaguely nutty, slight notes of balsamic vinegar/ soy sauce and a hefty dose of booze. Perhaps a little more alcohol presence then I would anticipate but it still fits in with this fudgey imperial stout.

Medium full body with mild carbonation. Bittersweet pure dark cocoa, espresso and roasty finish.

If you read the bottle you know precisely what to expect here- an imperial stout with cocoa. I agree with a few of the other reviews that noted the dark fruit is much stronger aged than fresh. My mind isn't blown or anything but this is a nice brew both fresh and aged.

Serving type: bottle

04-15-2014 22:42:41 | More by ThickNStout
Photo of gueuzedreg


4.34/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Fantastic Coffee Stout

A- Pitch black, with minimal coffee lacing, no legs

S- More malt, then a bourbon kick??? chocolate

T- I get some barrel here too... big chocolate, big thick dark malt.

M- Very smooth, minimal carb; creamy

O- Another terrific offering from GI. Comparable to a WWS, but more all around better executed.

Serving type: bottle

03-28-2014 01:23:36 | More by gueuzedreg
Photo of bryanbullock

District of Columbia

4.45/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

My good friend lucked into the bottle of big john dated 12.7.12, and when about to drink I had very high expectations after falling in love with bourbon county. First off you can not compare an imperial stout to a barrel aged stout, so while it does not compare to the bourbon county power house I would put this as one of my top 5 imperial stouts.

Appearance - I love the dark hue and it pours with a chocolate collar around the rim, mild bubbling. Head dissipates rather quickly

Smell - Alcohol smell is front and center, chocolate overtones but a hint of vanilla.

Mouthfeel - Smooth feel, thick viscosity with no carbonation.

Taste - Awesome stout from start to finish, sweetness hits you on the forefront with a milder calm finish. Notes of nut, and vanilla are the predominant tastes from beginning to end.

Great Imperial Stout, Goose Island really knows how to do it

Serving type: bottle

03-21-2014 23:12:43 | More by bryanbullock
Photo of hops202

District of Columbia

4.43/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into stone snifter. Bottled on 12/7/12

Super jet black and viscous poor. Looks like used motor oil sludge mixed with roofing tar. Smell is cocoa dominant with coffee and some jammy fruits as the beer begins to warm. Taste follows the nose fairly well and lots of cocoa, some sweet fruits and bitter espresso towards the end. Overall a very good imperial stout from the makers of BCBS.

Serving type: bottle

03-21-2014 23:09:24 | More by hops202
Photo of brianmandell

New York

4.21/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

bottle dated 12/7/12 in snifter

Pours black and viscous with no head; some clumpy lacing on the glass. Smells of raw tangy, sweet cocao bean fresh from the pod, vanilla, dark jammy fruit like cherry and fig, molasses, roasty malts and even a little coffee. Quite nice. The flavor is jammy fruit which is a bit tangy and bright, just a touch of cocao, vanilla, brown sugar, sweet, roasty malt and a balanced bitterness on the finish. The booze is a bit imposing from start to finish but doesn't take away too much from the flavor. The mouthfeel is chewy and syrupy with a tingly effervescent carbonation. There is more carbonation than bourbon county stout. Overall this is rather delicious. I think the jammy fruit flavors are a bit excessive and the booze is a little much. But otherwise very well done as a sweet dessert stout.

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2014 02:37:54 | More by brianmandell
Photo of hopley


4.58/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle dated 12/01/12 - just over a year old. Nice pour into a snifter, jet black. Gathered a nice 1/2 inch brown head which dissipated quickly into a small bit of foam around the edge - which subsequently left nice delicate sexy lacing with each sip. Taste is rich strong black. The cacao nibs definitely come through in a 75% dark chocolate taste - not overpowering and not too dark - which is good. 14.5% ABV is taste-able and appropriate for this this big of a beer. Overall, a frigging great beer that gets better as it approaches room temperature, but also tastes great right out of the 'frig.

Serving type: bottle

03-03-2014 03:06:00 | More by hopley
Photo of MudDrinker


4.16/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - Pours like thick black ink. Completely opaque black, with a very thin, almost non-existent light-medium umber head which ultimately becomes a small ring around the glass (no amount of movement will amount to much more than a couple of millimeters of head). It sets up the expectation completely, and I think its gorgeous.

Smell - There's not much in the smell department, cacao and malt is prevalent. It smells incredibly sweet.

Taste - Surprise, surprise it is incredibly sweet. Cacao, brown sugar/molasses, and coffee are the most notable flavors. Followed up by a warm alcoholic bitterness, with the dark roast coffee bitterness lingering in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Sticky. My lips were slightly glued together after taking a couple of sips. Little carbonation, and about as dense/thick as a coffee syrup.

Overall - Good stuff! It's as it says an Imperial Stout with Cacao Nibs. With the exception of glumatic flavors (which are probably shaved off by the cacao addition), it tastes like what it says. It's a combination of dark roast coffee, cacao, and malty sweetness. Powerfully sweet upfront with bitterness from the roasty/char of the dark roast coffee flavors, dark chocolate dryness, and a pretty swift alcohol kick at the end. Aftertaste is predominantly the coffee. If you like Ten Fidy or Chocolate Yeti, I think its one of the sweeter examples, but definitely right in that neighborhood.

Serving type: bottle

01-26-2014 20:14:15 | More by MudDrinker
Photo of Stevedore


3.86/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bomber dating from 12/7/2012, poured into a Great Lakes snifter today, 1/12/2014. I've also had this several times in the past when it was fresh. This is based on the fresh review, but will include comments about the 1+ year old version.

Appearance is typical big stout- dark black body, opaque, minimal mocha head that dissipates quickly. Not much lacing or film left after a few minutes.

Smells of dark fruit, even a little tartness, a bit smoky, lots of cacao for sure. Sweet chocolates.

Flavour is similar- bitter chocolate, sweet milk chocolate with dark fruit tartness on the backend. Not overly hopped. It would seem that with a year of age on it, the dark fruits come out quite a bit more which makes for a strange experience.. it almost tastes infected after a year.

Full bodied, so viscous and slick. Sticks to the palate, very creamy. Very good mouthfeel on this beer, whatever else it may be.

Drink this one fresh. A year of age did not do this beer any favors.

Serving type: bottle

01-13-2014 15:11:21 | More by Stevedore
Photo of hosehead83


4.06/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bomber bottle(vintage 3-25-11) Served in tulip glass.
Very dark with ruby highlights, very short cap of dark tan foam.
Aroma-Cocoa, vanilla, dark fruit.
Taste-A complex, but well-balanced mix of premium chocolate, rum raisin, cedar and plum. Warming mouthfeel and a dry, almost port-like finish. Smooth and nicely aged.

Serving type: bottle

01-08-2014 17:26:11 | More by hosehead83
Photo of robwestcott


4.21/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle Date: 12/07/12

Poured cold and black to a 17oz Heady Topper stemless glass with a 1/2 finger short lasting mocha head that leaves a ring at the surface.

Aroma of dark fruits, figs and a but of cocoa and smoke.

Big bodied, minimal carbonation, viscous, creamy smooth, sweet, no bitter.

Chocolate, smoke, dark fruit, subtle hops in the way way back.

Nice beer. Big.

Serving type: bottle

01-05-2014 01:52:08 | More by robwestcott
Photo of Roguer


4.45/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thick, dark brown, long-lasting head with very nice lacing. Brew is a solid opaque black.

Boozy aroma, with red grapes and cacao. Definitely a bit of creamy sweetness through the nose, a blend of vanilla and yeast.

Wonderfully smooth: sweetened cream, oatmeal, chocolate (less overpowering than implied), some booziness (especially in the back-end), and a lovely bite to it that I can't quite identify, and which is absolutely necessary to balance out the creamy smoothness.

Unbelievably thick and creamy feel! Remember when people would talk about "chewing" Guinness? This is the beer they actually had in mind. No bourbon to thin it out, but it still packs a bit of an alcoholic warmth in the throat. Coats the mouth and lasts.

I don't know how amazing this beer is fresh, but with a year on it, it's sublime. I have a feeling it's overlooked and underrated based on its GI bourbon cousins. Overlooking this beer would be a mistake. It's a big, creamy imperial stout, and it comes through in every way that counts.

Bottled December 2012.

Serving type: bottle

12-17-2013 18:36:41 | More by Roguer
Photo of Richie1124

New York

4.64/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

22oz bomber poured into a tulip glass.

This beer is HUGE. Very heavy beer and don't expect to put many of these away. A lot bigger and heavier than I expected but it is an excellent beer. The smell is off the charts with a heavy chocolate presence. Has a nice malty, sweet, chocolate taste to it also followed by a slight hint of alcohol.
Overall this is a great stout and worth a try. Averages around $10 for a 22oz. 11.50% ABV so you're getting your money's worth!!!

Serving type: bottle

12-04-2013 15:48:23 | More by Richie1124
Photo of oatsodas


3.61/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark brown, with a light tan head. Little carbonation.

S: Malty, chocolate, cacao, and a bit toasty.

T: Generally sweet and chocolaty, with just a bit of the bitterness expected in an Imp Stout.
A hint of alcohol without being overpowering.

M: Lightly carbonated. Smooth but full-bodied.

O: A very good Imp Stout. The Cacao nibs are a nice touch and very much up-front in the taste. A good cold-weather beer to be sipped slowly, especially with dessert.

Serving type: bottle

11-29-2013 15:49:09 | More by oatsodas
Photo of Redrover


4.25/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I just had one of these last night with the wife. It was dated 12/7/12.

The beer is black with dark brown highlights. It is thick and a trifle syrupy which is great.

Big aroma of figs, plums, rains, and roasted malts.

The flavor tracked the smell. Lots of dark fruit and roasted malt goodness. The chocolate - coco was less evident in this one compared to a fresh one I had last year. It still adds a nice back ground element.

I was surprised by how much alcohol heat was still there. I wish I had a few more in the cellar as this one was very enjoyable.

Serving type: bottle

11-23-2013 17:00:09 | More by Redrover
Photo of Doogermeister


4.05/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance is a wonderful tarry black that reminds me of a bourbon county. The smell is slightly boozy with a note of cocoa nib and coffee. The taste I feel doesn't live up to the smell. It lingers a bit too long and is pretty bitter. Fans of high bitter beers will enjoy this. The mouthfeel is slightly odd when compared to bourbon county or other stouts by goose island. Overall this beer is pretty tasty. I aged this one for the full year recommended and I am not sure if the aging did the beer any good.

Serving type: bottle

11-23-2013 03:46:14 | More by Doogermeister
Photo of vfgccp

New York

3.81/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

Bottled Dec 7th 2012, opened Nov 20th 2013.

A - Deep mahogany black body with thin cola highlights. Fine, milk chocolate colored head has low retention and lace.

S - Huge chocolate covered raisin nose. Thick black chocolate, rum soaked raisins, almonds, vanilla, touch of wood, and chocolate chip cookie dough.

T - Burnt toast, milk chocolate, reduced soy sauce, molasses, brownies, and sweet balsamic vinegar. Thick, sweet, and mildly astringent.

M - Full body, nice legs.

O - A shade too sweet, and the soy sauce is a bit of a distraction, but otherwise a nice AIS.

Serving type: bottle

11-21-2013 03:01:50 | More by vfgccp
Photo of corysmith01

New York

4.41/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I don't write many reviews but felt compelled to write this one. I saw this in the store, looked at the reviews and thought "decent." As in, this should be a decent stout, based on the various reviews and comments. What I got was a thick, viscous, quite complex stout that caught me off-guard…again, based on the reviews.

This beer mentions cocoa nibs on the label. I must admit I didn't get a lot of that as I think the alcohol quells the subtlety of the vanilla. But what wasn't mentioned, and what I was getting a lot of, was dark fruits; figs, raisins…both in the nose and in taste. This was a really nice surprise as I've gotten that from beers like Deschutes Black Butte XXV, but not so much in your average chocolate/coffee stout. Nice surprise. The mouthfeel is what really sold me…I love thick, viscous stouts. Zhukov, things like that…love them. And this is right in the same arena.

The only knock I could give is that maybe it's slightly hot, a little alcohol burn. But at 11.5% that doesn't shock me. The other qualities are more than enough to subdue that. This is a pretty great beer. As someone who likes heat (Mexican Cake, Bomb!), I'd love to see a variant of this beer with some pepper character, but until then, this version is more than adequate.

Serving type: bottle

11-20-2013 04:46:19 | More by corysmith01
Photo of ryan1788a5


3.94/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a large snifter. Bottled 3/25/11, so this is over two and a half years old.

A: Pitch black on the pour. Even a very aggressive pour fails to build much of a head. Lacing is minimal and spotty.

S: Raspberry ester. Fudge sauce and black cocoa. Acrid burnt crust edge. Heavily roasted grain. Big spike of alcohol. A little bit of cardboard oxidation, but this is normal. Dried figs.

T: Raspberry and currant esters. Slick fudge sauce. Bittersweet dark chocolate. Roasted barley. Blackstrap molasses. Cocoa nibs are big on the mid-palate, and create a strong chocolate pull. Roasted coffee beans. Charred crust and a touch of acrid smoke. Boozy. Charred crust, fudge sauce, and lingering cocoa nibs on the long finish.

M: Big, thick body. Slick, coating, and chewy. Very weighty and sludgy. Low carbonation. Numbing alcohol.

O: This is an enormous beer, and there is no subtlety to it whatsoever. Drink this on an empty stomach and you will not need to eat a meal. You will also probably be drunk. Works very well as an after dinner/dessert sipper. It really favors the sweet tooth.

Serving type: bottle

11-20-2013 00:43:33 | More by ryan1788a5
Photo of Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

4.71/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large dark brown foamy head with good retention and some great lacing. Aroma of dark chocolate malt with light roasted malt and light residual sugar notes. Taste is a sublime mix between black milk chocolate with some light molasses and liquorice notes with light dry roasted malt notes also perceptible. Body is full with nice thick creamy texture and good carbonation and no alcohol presence is easily identifiable. I really enjoyed this huge beer and I’m glad they were able to maintain such balance and drinkability to match the complexity of this beer.

Serving type: bottle

11-12-2013 21:12:00 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of Pintofbrown


4.59/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Becker glass. 2012 vintage.

This beer is black with no foam. The scents comprise vanilla, brown sugar, a little cocoa and some bourbon barely escaping through that nectarous nose.

The flavors are more roasted and a little boozy to start. However, at mid-palate, these wonderful flavors of fig, vanilla, dark chocolate, and brown sugar start to really take off. The finish goes on forever and incorporates more of the roasted malt and bourbon booze.

This beer glides right over the tongue and has some nice heft to it, definitely leaves the lips a little sticky.

I never had this beer fresh, but I can say that this is a gluttonous, dessert imperial stout with a year of age on it. And the bourbon hits at just the right level, letting you know it is in there, but not bruising the other flavors. I would gladly have this supreme, syrupy stout again.

Serving type: on-tap

11-11-2013 10:37:49 | More by Pintofbrown
Photo of philbe311


4.1/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Just shy of a fingers worth of slightly lopsided dark khaki colored froth that displays minimal at best retention... All that remains is an uneven half crescent shaped veil of lacing and a thin to moderate collar... The color is a deep rich slightly foreboding dark brown teetering on black... Mostly still with just an occasional stray sluggish carbonation bubble...

S - A big aroma... Loaded with sweet milk chocolate and caramel... Hints of molasses and brown sugar... Perhaps some vanilla as well... There are also subtle hints of slightly roasted malts and a faint booziness that lingers beneath the surface... Very sweet... Very enticing... Very nice...

T - Light roasted malt... Caramel... Cocoa... Vanilla... Brown sugar... Molasses... Very sweet... A very light booze presence permeates throughout... There are some dark fruit notes mixed in as well... The roasted malts rises on the finish and intensifies a bit... There is also a subtle astringency on the finish...

M - Full bodied... Limited carbonation... Coats evenly and fully... Chewy... Slightly viscous... Quite smooth...

D - A very nice well rounded American Double / Imperial Stout... Very sweet, but never cloying... Smooth and well rounded... Not world class, but it isn't too far off... I don't have a single complaint... Very well done by Goose Island...

Serving type: bottle

11-10-2013 02:23:57 | More by philbe311
Photo of Gatch


4.74/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 12/07/12 0930...develops in the bottle for up to 1 year.

A: Dark as a beer can be with a nice, medium to dark brown head. I poured into the glass from a distance because I knew this would be thick and stubborn. But it poured nicely and looked inviting. Creamy, faded quickly, and left little lacing and retention.

S: Dark, sweet, boozy fruit. Heavily roasted malt. And of course, so much dark chocolate and cacao nibs that its difficult to put into words. Just sublime.

T: Seriously ridiculous flavors. So much dark, luscious, creamy chocolate. Sweet, dried, dark fruits. Black strap molasses and caramelized brown sugar. Great sweetness without being cloying. Chocolate covered, sugary, syrupy fruits is what I keep going back to.

M: As thick and creamy as can be. Amazing flavor and balance. Carbonation is low but its where it needs to be. Slight bite with each sip and the body is absolutely spot on. Superb.

O: The numbers I'm giving this beer aren't a joke. This is the real deal and a beer that I really enjoyed. Such an incredibly delicious and impressive stout. I was a tad nervous drinking it so close to the "drink by" date that was a little less than a month away, but it blew my mind. Such a pleasurable drinking experience! So glad I picked it up.

Serving type: bottle

11-10-2013 00:15:54 | More by Gatch
Photo of barnzy78


4.38/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle, bittled on 12/07/12 0830
A - Fairly rigorous pour eventually creates a thinner creamy light brown head that does hold good retention. For a second I was thinking no carbonation. Whew.
S - nice chocolaty nose, sweet, brown sugar, molasses, caramel, slight roastiness
T - rich, bold, dark chocolate, fruity esters of cherry and blackberry, caramel, molasses; very sweet and boozy
M - full body, lower carbonation, very well balanced with excellent complexity
O - excellent American Imperial Stout with nice chocolate flavors. If the price was right I would get this again.

Serving type: bottle

11-04-2013 18:30:45 | More by barnzy78
Photo of sbxx


4.48/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 12/07/2012
Bottle #1115
Poured into snifter

Appearance - Pitch black with 1 finger of sexy dark caramel head. Fades into a nice thick ring around the glass.

Smell - Dark cocoa, roasted malt, hints of caramel, vanilla and raisins.

Taste - Much like it smells. Very nice and ridiculously drinkable at 11.5%. This is dangerous stuff.

Mouthfeel - Incredible. Rich and creamy. Nice bite of carbonation that softly fades. Slick yet sticky finish.

Overall - Imagine Bourbon County without the barrel treatment. Very enjoyable. A must-try for any fan of big, boozy stouts.

Serving type: bottle

10-27-2013 22:05:10 | More by sbxx
Photo of thedoubler55

New Jersey

4.5/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A : Opaque black in pour, with a beautiful two finger tan head at the top, looks just like a fresh brewed coffee, lots of lacing all around the glass.

S: Strong hints of coffee beans and cocoa beans, slight hint of hops and malts as well, very roasty nose on this one.

T: Almost exactly like the nose besides the little heat I get on the tongue from this brew, very chocolatey and roasty.

M: Very well balanced brew, perfect in my eyes, heavy bodied with a perfect amount of carbonation.

O: This beer was fantastic, perfect amount of coffee and cocoa notes and perfectly balanced, was pretty happy with this beer.

Serving type: bottle

10-21-2013 15:54:23 | More by thedoubler55
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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,298 ratings.